Arts and culture

As the Republican convention gets under way in Tampa tomorrow, we can expect to hear more about the personal life of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Storms, Strippers and Stereotypes

Aug 27, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac may be making headlines after delaying the start of the RNC -- but the media blitz in Tampa shows no sign of stopping.

Reporters from The Washington Post posed an interesting question:

Why pick a state in Hurricane Alley in peak hurricane season for an all-important nominating convention where visuals are everything?

While the real Sarah Palin wasn't invited to speak at the Republican National Convention, someone who looks like her is speaking out in Tampa.

Adult entertainer, Lisa Ann, who starred in the 2008 film satirizing former republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, performed at Thee Dollhouse in Tampa.

During a press conference held at the club she discussed Palin, politics, and business with a room full of reporters.

Scott Finn / WUSF

Frankly, I expected more.

Here are the entire contents of the "Busch Gardens" bag given to the media today:

- "No Apologies" by Mitt Romney

- Battery-powered mini-fan from

- Sunglasses from

- Suncreen from (guess who?)

- A magazine I had not heard of called "Baypop" with glossy models sporting Young Republican gear

- Two brochures from the University of Tampa (what, no University of South Florida?)

- The official media guide and regular guide to the convention

Metal Chris / Flickr

With thousands of out-of-town reporters expected this week, it’s inevitable Tampa gets reduced to a series of exotic stereotypes.

There’s the strippers.

And that Tampa is an anti-urbanism dystopia run by paranoid conservatives.

During the next two weeks, the major political parties will assemble their faithful in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., to officially nominate their presidential tickets. These conventions were once places of high political drama. But over the decades, as the primary system has determined the candidates well in advance, conventions have become political theater. With that in mind, there's much to be said on staging in politics — not substance, but style.

Sarah Curran / WUSF

Local vendors are hoping to capitalize on the Republican National Convention.  One woman is hoping to not only promote her favorite candidate, Mitt Romney, but also make some money and get some recognition for her unique form of political art.

It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for Laura Silverthorn and her art.  She ruffles through a pile of sketches and collages.

"So I kind of got into the political stuff a few years ago and liked it, and now that the RNC is so close I feel like its kind of pointing me that way," she says.

Strip clubs and heat--that's basically what The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has mentioned about Tampa during their preliminary Republican National Convention coverage. 

One of the show's correspondents, Aasif Mandvi, went to high school and college in Tampa. In an interview with Miami New Times blog, he says:

Romance fiction is the Rodney Dangerfield of the publishing world: It don't get no respect.

This, despite the fact that romance is the most consistently profitable genre in an unsettlingly shaky business. Last year, romance alone contributed more than $1 billion to publishing's diminished coffers. And a growing amount of that income comes from romances written by ethnic writers for ethnic readers.

DaseInDesign / Flickr

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has done some reconnoitering in the political convention hosts cities of Tampa and Charlotte and his conclusion is that "both are equally ... middle of the road" when it comes to dining.

But Seitsema found a few things to like in both cities.

Leading the list in Tampa is Bern's Steakhouse (duh). Sietsema says it is as much an institution in Tampa as the Supreme Court is in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy of ResInno

When Justin Elliot was just a kid, he started working as a piano technician.  He says he got tired of looking at the same old boring black pianos, so we he got older, he started his own piano company, Resinno.

Forget about trying to ask him what kind of wood he uses in his piano design, that's a trade secret.  But he will tell you that traditional pianos "ground" the sound into the ground, and the secret to his piano's success is in the legs.

And while those legs look like they are molded out of plastic, it's all wood.

What would you do if something you depend upon every day of week was no longer there every day of the week?

That’s what’s happening in New Orleans with their newspaper, the Times-Picayune. It’s owners recently announced they would only publish three days a week.

“In New Orleans, that’s a really big deal,” said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-making Project. “The community is up in arms. They are very angry."

Julia Child Remixed

Aug 14, 2012

Julia Child once said, "Freshness is essential."

Tributes to the late chef don't get much fresher than this funky compilation of clips PBS has put together in honor of Child's 100th birthday, which would have been Wednesday. Peep this:

Child was born Aug. 15, 1912 in Pasadena, Calif. She is credited for bringing French food to the American masses with her television shows and two-volume cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

The bridges over the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa came alive Friday night - and will stay alive - after Mayor Bob Buckhorn flipped the switch on the new "Agua Luces" project.

The project illuminates the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge, Selmon Expressway Bridge, Brorein Street Bridge, the Platt Street Bridge and the CSX Railroad Bridge in vibrant colors that cycle continuously.  Click on the pictures above for a taste. And here's a map of the locations.

How America's Losing The War On Poverty

Aug 5, 2012

While President Obama and Gov. Romney battle for the hearts and minds of the middle class this election season, there's a huge swath of Americans that are largely ignored. It's the poor, and their ranks are growing.

According to a recent survey by The Associated Press, the number of Americans living at or below the poverty line will reach its highest point since President Johnson made his famous declaration of war on poverty in 1964.

Chana Joffe-Walt

Have you ever found yourself listening to NPR, completely engrossed by a story about credit-default swaps, or the banking industry in Iceland?

If so, you have Planet Money to thank. It’s the reporting team that proves economic stories can be educational and fun.

I recently had the privilege to hear Planet Money’s David Kestenbaum and Robert Smith reveal some of their best practices – how they do what they do. And instead of hoarding that knowledge, I figured I’d share it.

Tampa Bay & Company

It's that time of year when Florida goes on sale. In addition to the back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday that runs Friday through Sunday, this weekend also kicks off Dine Tampa Bay.

For the next two weeks, restaurants in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater will offer three-course, pre-fixed meals. Patrons can get an appetizer, entree and dessert for $25, $35 or $45, depending on the restaurant.

The mugshot website industry is booming – especially in Florida.

Florida has liberal open-records laws, and different entities take advantage of that to gather mugshots, organize them and post them on line.

But what happens next is a form of “highway robbery,” according to Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute’s Sense-making Project.

Reputation-defender businesses will charge up to $400 to get your mugshot off that website.

“Some of these sites are engaging in what seems like a legal form of extortion,” McBride said.

Old City Hall Clock Tower's Facelift Almost Complete

Jul 31, 2012

She's almost a hundred years old but not too old to get a facelift. They call her "Hortense the Beautiful" and she's the old city hall clock tower in Downtown Tampa. She's been an iconic image for the city and has been under much needed renovations.

From ground level, Hortense the Beautiful may not seem to show her age. But standing ten stories high on metal scaffolding, up close and personal, you can see every blemish on her face.

The 1915 clock tower needed its leaky copper roof and dome replaced. Cracked terracotta had to be patched. The clock even needed new hands.

Skip Roping isn't in the Olympics yet, but competitors hope it will be soon. USF's Sun Dome plays host, this week, to the World Championship Skip Roping... or as Americans like to call it,  jump roping competition.

Skip Roping requires agility, speed, stamina and coordination. The competitions range from double dutch or single to speed.  

Becky Zelewski works for USA Jump Rope, the organization coordinating the event.